Friday 28 October 2016

Kildare must peak to have a squeak ...

Cork are a wounded animal but Lilies may lack the killer instinct to take advantage

Kildare's Eamonn Callaghan
Kildare's Eamonn Callaghan

You've got to admire the tenacity of Kildare footballers over the past eight seasons, incorporating the reigns of Kieran McGeeney and Jason Ryan.

Kildare v Cork (Thurlers, Tonight 7.0, Live SKY)

They frequently suffer morale-sapping defeats, be it in league or especially Leinster championship. They are knocked unceremoniously as a consequence: their footballing ring-craft, their skills of execution, even their character, are all openly questioned.

Then you sit back and wait for them to slink out the back door ... and they never do.

They stay and fight. They battle through to the end of July or early August.

Then they meet a county with serious ambitions of their own (usually a Division One outfit) and the dream dies. They might lose in agonising fashion (Monaghan last summer, Donegal in 2011, Down the year before). Or they might collapse, as happened when they last faced Cork in 2012.

But invariably they come up short and the whole cycle of pondering the historic shortcomings of Kildare football starts all over again.

So, can we expect more of the same from tonight's trip to Semple Stadium?

Based purely on form graphs, you cannot construct the case for a Lilywhite ambush.

Cork are a firmly established member of the Division One elite; Kildare have just been relegated to Division Three.


Cork came within seconds of toppling Kerry in the drawn Munster final; Kildare's only flirtation with a top-tier county this summer resulted in a 19-point capitulation to Dublin.

So is it that open and shut? Not quite. While Kildare's history against Division One rivals scarcely inspires confidence, nor does the history of defeated provincial finalists asked to play a week later ... Cork are attempting to become just the fourth county to buck this losing trend.

Cork bodies should have recovered from their day-two trials in Killarney - how the minds have healed will, arguably, be a more important factor.

Tactically, too, Brian Cuthbert needs to ensure a more fluid link between his packed defence and attack. Losing Paddy Kelly to injury certainly won't help that process, but the manager also needs more movement from his inside raiders.

Brian Hurley was an understandable fall guy after being held scoreless twice by Kerry's Shane Enright.

As for Kildare, it will take a lot more than one 19-point demolition of Longford to convince the jury.

At least that cakewalk result in Mullingar suggests some of their brittle self-belief has been restored; a week earlier, they had looked far more nervy against Offaly when squeezing home by two points.

In a nutshell, Ryan's crew remain a team in transition. They've been good enough to see off Laois (after a June replay) and now two Leinster rivals just recently promoted from Division Four ... but Cork, while not at Dublin's level, look too much of a step-up.

ODDS: Kil 9/2 Draw 12/1 Cork 1/5


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